Vasudevan Venkatakrishnan, director of business development at Ruckus Networks Asia Pacific, lays out how an efficient network system can elevate the hotel guest experience to new levels
With increasing competition and demanding tech-savvy, modern consumers, hoteliers are facing technology pressures to innovate on dual fronts: retaining current customers, while also attracting new ones by utilising their existing networks.
Amazon recently announced a partnership with Marriott International to roll out their voice-controlled Echo devices across select properties in the US, aimed at deepening guest engagement through seamless voice-first experiences.
However, as much as technology is the next big thing that will transform the hospitality industry, the technologies used are incredibly fragmented. These include systems for property management, central reservation, customer relationship, revenue management or channel management systems. Global trade association Hotel Technology Next Generation, for example, lists just under 50 product categories on its website for systems commonly used in hotels.
There is also resistance to change and adopt newer technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence and robotics, not just because of the technical challenges and added cost in integrating these systems, but because we need to be convinced that new technology can positively impact the bottom line.
At the same time, hotels of today are also being reminded that customers and a committed staff remain at the heart of hospitality. At a recent international hospitality forum, Peter Verhoeven, global director of partner services at Booking.com, said: “Everything you do has to be customer-centric. If the customer doesn’t find what they want, they will leave and never come back.”
The message is clear: The hospitality industry is a business where the bottom line matters, and at the centre of the business is the customer.
For hotel employees and management, sensors throughout the hotel can help track guests’ locations, the facilities currently in use, as well as to signal staff when additional amenities are needed. Hotels can now deploy service robots for example, to deliver items to guestrooms, allowing for staff to be deployed elsewhere.
Through judicious use of technology, hotels can find ways to maximise guest satisfaction. Hotels can look to apps and sensors to streamline the guest registration process and unlock a room door. Once checked in, guests might request for extra towels, or order room service via a mobile app. IoT-enabled technologies like LED lighting and automated climate controls help make for a personalised and comfortable stay, while smart TVs allow guests to catch their favourite TV shows.
Whether for the guest or employee, seamless experiences should be built on the back of an efficient network system – from the Wi-Fi access points to the switch, cloud and IoT.
Studies have shown that free Wi-Fi is the hotel amenity travellers want the most, while 65 per cent of guests log in to the Wi-Fi within seven minutes of arriving. With mobile and online customer service channels, staff can quickly jump on top of any customer issues that might pop up. For hotel staff involved in back-end operations, the ability to access critical work applications via mobile and handheld devices make for a more flexible and agile way of working.
Looking beyond technology, hoteliers shouldn’t forget that their customer-facing employees, who work closely with both the hotel systems and guests, can be tapped on to provide deeper insights into the gaps existing within the various systems and processes of a hotel business.
At the end of the day, when used right, technology can not only translate knowledge of guest preferences into crucial action plans to help hoteliers improve the guest experience, but also be the difference between the guest having a good or a great stay. And if hoteliers can consistently ensure great experiences for their guests, they’ll keep coming back.
Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS company, builds secure wired and wireless access networks for organisations that place a premium on connectivity experiences for end-users with their partners.